Hill: Real deal Senna changed the sport


New Williams team mates Damon Hill (GBR) (left) and Ayrton Senna (BRA) were on hand to test the FW16 for the first time.Formula One Testing, Estoril, Portugal, 18-20 January 1994.

Damon Hill was Ayrton Senna’s last teammate, sharing a pit garage for the first two races of the 1994 Formula 1 season at Williams before the race at Imola robbed the sport of one of its biggest stars.

At the time Hill was 33 years old, around the same age as Senna but while the Brazilian was already a three-time F1 World Champion his teammate had only two seasons of racing in the top flight under his belt.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Senna’s death at Imola on 1 May 1994, Hill spoke to Sky F1 about the F1 legend, “Every era has someone who changes the sport and I think he was one of those people. He changed the sport, he changed the approach.”

“He was far more aggressive and far more committed, to the point of almost craziness. But he had such self-belief, and I think that inspired people – I think they were fascinated by him.”

“I think he was a bit of a shock to the system when he arrived in Formula 1 because he was audacious. I think that’s why everyone wanted to have him in their team, because they knew that this was the guy who would give everything he absolutely had to get the very last drop out of that car.

“Sometimes it went wrong, sometimes he went too far – but fans loved him and he was a massive, massive symbol of hope and success to Brazilians, and people around the world.”

“He had an air of uniqueness about him and he was also not messing about, he was a very serious person. He wasn’t here to have fun, he was clearly here to do business. So he was quite intimidating from that point of view.”

“But whatever attitude he had off the track, it was backed up by his results on the track. It wasn’t like he was putting on airs or graces, he was the real deal,” explained Hill.

Johnny Herbert, who raced against Senna, added, “I knew him from karting and the first thing I always remember was that he did things differently to everybody else. He was always thinking outside of the box.”

“That strength allowed him to get the absolute maximum out of the team, and then he was able to produce the purest racing car for when he was able to get in and show those skills like he did at Donington Park in 1993. It’s that type of skill that is very rare.”

“The pure skill he had seemed to work in the wet weather, in dry weather, in a race, in qualifying. He was almost like the complete package. It was always a challenge for him, and I think that challenge was to show he was the best,” concluded Herbert.

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